Speed gets rookies attention
The speed arrested Tristan Vautier’s attention quickly on the 1.5-mile, high-banked Texas Motor Speedway oval. Sure, he competed on ovals in Firestone Indy Lights last season, winning at Milwaukee and garnering four top-five finishes in an equal number of races.
His first session on a superspeedway in an IZOD IndyCar Series car, though, was “eye opening.”
“Everything happens to you faster, but I think it feels that way when it’s your first time in a new car on a new track until your brain gets used to it,” said Vautier, who drove the Chevrolet-powered No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian car on March 27.
Vautier, who made his IZOD IndyCar Series debut last weekend at St. Petersburg, was joined by AJ Allmendinger in the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske car and Carlos Munoz in Marco Andretti’s car for their rookie oval orientation. The session was a prelude to the formal Rookie Orientation Program at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on April 11.
All three will be entered in the 97th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 26, and at least Vautier will compete in the Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 8 (prime time on ABC).
Allmendinger, who will make his IZOD IndyCar Series debut in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 7 at Barber Motorsports Park, tested an IZOD IndyCar Series car for the third time in the past six weeks.
“Just like any test right in an IndyCar now for me, it’s about getting comfortable,” he said. “It all feels like I’m a fish out of water, trying to figure out how to get around. People assume back when I raced Champ Cars I did a lot of ovals, but I really only did Milwaukee so this is brand new for me.
“It’s a lot different (from a stock car to drive around TMS). A little track knowledge (helps), and all these mile-and-a-half tracks a little different – they have their own character – so it’s good to know but it’s still different. Obviously, me being here it’s about going to Indy and being comfortable in an IndyCar around a fast racetrack like this. There’s a lot of work to do yet.”
Six other IZOD IndyCar Series drivers (Ed Carpenter, Takuma Sato, Graham Rahal, Simon Pagenaud and James Jakes) were on the track in the afternoon through early evening. More at IndyCar.com